The biobehavioral and neuroimmune impact of low-dose ionizing radiation

Jason M. York, Neil A. Blevins, Daryl D. Meling, Molly B. Peterlin, Daila S. Gridley, Keith A. Cengel, Gregory G. Freund

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In the clinical setting, repeated exposures (10-30) to low-doses of ionizing radiation (≤200. cGy), as seen in radiotherapy for cancer, causes fatigue. Almost nothing is known, however, about the fatigue inducing effects of a single exposure to environmental low-dose ionizing radiation that might occur during high-altitude commercial air flight, a nuclear reactor accident or a solar particle event (SPE). To investigate the short-term impact of low-dose ionizing radiation on mouse biobehaviors and neuroimmunity, male CD-1 mice were whole body irradiated with 50. cGy or 200. cGy of gamma or proton radiation. Gamma radiation was found to reduce spontaneous locomotor activity by 35% and 36%, respectively, 6. h post irradiation. In contrast, the motivated behavior of social exploration was un-impacted by gamma radiation. Examination of pro-inflammatory cytokine gene transcripts in the brain demonstrated that gamma radiation increased hippocampal TNF-α expression as early as 4. h post-irradiation. This was coupled to subsequent increases in IL-1RA (8 and 12. h post irradiation) in the cortex and hippocampus and reductions in activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein (Arc) (24. h post irradiation) in the cortex. Finally, restraint stress was a significant modulator of the neuroimmune response to radiation blocking the ability of 200. cGy gamma radiation from impairing locomotor activity and altering the brain-based inflammatory response to irradiation. Taken together, these findings indicate that low-dose ionizing radiation rapidly activates the neuroimmune system potentially causing early onset fatigue-like symptoms in mice.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)218-227
    Number of pages10
    JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Feb 2012


    • Acute radiation syndrome (ARS)
    • Co
    • Cs
    • Innate immunity
    • Interleukin-1 (IL-1)
    • Prodromal stage

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Immunology
    • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
    • Behavioral Neuroscience


    Dive into the research topics of 'The biobehavioral and neuroimmune impact of low-dose ionizing radiation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this